10/17/2011 2:45PM

Hawthorne: Block may send Giant Oak, Never Retreat to Breeders' Cup

Four-Footed Fotos
Trainer Chris Block is considering running Giant Oak in the Breeders' Cup Marathon.

STICKNEY, Ill. – Chicago-based trainer Chris Block could have two starters in Breeders’ Cup races next month at Churchill Downs, or he could have none. Giant Oak is probable for the BC Marathon, while Never Retreat is a possible runner in the BC Mile, Block said Monday.

Giant Oak appeared to have exited his somewhat disappointing fifth-place finish Oct. 8 in the Hawthorne Gold Cup without any physical issues or undue fatigue, though Block said Giant Oak is not the easiest horse to read.

“He seems good to me, but I never know for sure where I’m at with this horse,” Block said. “He’s hard to get a real line on.”

Giant Oak has run well enough on occasion – winning the Donn Handicap earlier this year, being placed first via disqualification in the 2010 Clark Handicap – for his connections to have considered the BC Classic over the Marathon, but Giant Oak would have needed a stronger performance at Hawthorne to earn his way into the big race. Block said Giant Oak also would be nominated to the Ack Ack Handicap on Nov. 4 at Churchill as a back-up option.

Never Retreat, meanwhile, has been racing steadily through the entire 2011 season but still is showing no sign of wear and tear coming out of her win in the Oct. 8 First Lady at Keeneland, Never Retreat’s first Grade 1 victory. Together’s win in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup this past Saturday at Keeneland flattered Never Retreat, since she beat Together by 1 1/2 lengths in the Jenny Wiley.

“She’s come out of her last two races better than anything she’s come out of this year,” said Block.

Never Retreat’s connections are concerned by the fact she performed poorly in her lone start over the Churchill turf course, finishing sixth in the Distaff Turf Mile in the spring, and with that in mind, Block hopes to work Never Retreat over the Churchill turf this weekend in order to determine whether he should seriously entertain a start in the BC Mile.